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Exploring the Florida Keys: 101 Unique Things to Do in the Florida Keys

by Roslie L.
Published: Updated:
Colorful Key West Cottage Houses

Strung out like a necklace of emeralds across the turquoise Caribbean Sea, the Florida Keys are a sought-after destination for sun, sand, ocean views, and laid-back vibes.

From Orlando to Miami and beyond, I jump at every chance I get to explore all corners of Florida, while I find every area has its charms, one of my favorite adventures is exploring the Florida Keys.

Ready for a Florida Keys getaway? From picture-perfect beaches to off-the-beaten-path treasures, here’s your guide to exploring the Florida Keys in 101 adventures. Whether you’re spending a day in Key West or a week-long road trip through the Florida Keys, I’ve got you covered with a list of the best of the best.

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Best Way to Get to Key West

Before we dive into the best things to do in the Florida Keys, let’s take a quick look at your travel options.

Key West Florida US Highway 1

Getting from Miami to the Florida Keys is quick and easy, but I recommend taking your time. While this gorgeous string of islands only runs 125 miles, you will want at least a long weekend to explore and soak in the vibe.

Helpful resources for your Miami to Key West Florida Keys itinerary

Overseas Highway Self-Driving Guide
Insider’s Guide to the Florida Keys & Key West
Lonely Planet Miami and the Keys
Fodor’s In Focus Florida Keys: with Key West, Marathon & Key Largo
The New Key West Bucket List: 100 Offbeat Adventures in the Southmost City

Flying to the Florida Keys

Key West International Airport (EYW) is the main airport in the Florida Keys. You’ll find a steady stream of flights arriving in Key West from around the state.

If you are coming from farther distances, you will likely find more options (and better prices) flying into Miami International Airport (MIA). It can be a great excuse to start your trip from Miami.

Miami International Airport Florida

Insider Tip: It is well worth planning at least one night in Miami. Before you book your Florida Keys trip, take a quick look at my bucket list of things to do in Miami post. You’ll wish you had a week when you see all the Magic City has to offer.

Driving to the Florida Keys

I highly recommend driving to the Florida Keys. While the drive from Miami to Key West is about four hours, it’s a quintessential bucket-list road trip with stunning scenery and countless sites along the way.

The trip is 159 miles from Miami to Key West, and a road trip through the Keys on the Overseas Highway is a dream getaway you won’t forget.

Florida Keys Overseas Highway

Insider Tip: Thinking about driving from Miami or beyond? You’ve got to read my Florida road trip essentials before you go. I’ve got a few insider tips that will transform your experience.

Traveling the Florida Keys by Boat

If you happen to be on the Southwest coast of Florida, you can hop on a ferry from Marco Island or Ft. Myers Beach, and in less than four hours, you can be in Key West. Check out the ferry schedule here.

Sail Boat Key West, Florida

Elsewhere, you will find a range of high-speed boats, sailing yachts, fishing tours, and charters to explore the Keys. If you want options, check out these popular boating activities to add to your Florida Keys bucket list.

Getting to the Florida Keys by Bus

You will find Greyhound buses that go from Miami to Key West for less than $25.

If you rather someone else handle the driving with minimal stops, arrange your one-way trip (Miami to Key West, or vice versa) transport here!

If you’ve only got two days and want something more organized? Book your (round-trip) Miami to Key West day trip here for less than $45 per person.

Unique Things to Do in the Florida Keys

Want to get off the beaten path in the Florida Keys? Here are a few hidden gems that will show you what makes the Florida Keys a fantastic destination.

Seven Miles Bridge Marker Florida Keys

1. Seven Mile Bridge, MM 47: Just look at this iconic bridge!

2. Greeting from Key West Sign: Attached to Cuban Coffee Queen, this is an essential selfie spot.

3. Old Town Literary Walking Tour by Key West Literary Seminar: Every Friday and Sunday, you can learn about unique writers from around the world, along with some locals who have called Key West home.

4. Southernmost Point Buoy: An essential photo op in the southernmost city in the continental United States!

5. Ghosts & Gravestones Tour: A scary good time showing you the dark side of Key West (note: suitable for kids aged 13 and over). Or check out this post for more Key West Ghost tours options.

6. Bahama Village: Want a taste of Bahamian culture? Sample unique fusion foods, cool handicrafts, and other treasures in this unique Key West neighborhood.

7. Tiki Hut Sunset Cruise: What’s better than a tiki bar? How about one that’s traveling the turquoise seas? Whether you want a fun family adventure, a romantic couple’s trip, or a wild night out. Book your group a seat on one of these stools (for up to six people).

8. Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tours: Attention, culture vultures, and foodies! You’ve got to book at least one of these tours.

Best Tours in the Florida Keys

Planning a day trip from Miami? If you want to make the most of your limited time in the Florida Keys, here are tours that will show you everything.

Key West Florida Conch Train Tour

9. Key West Conch Train Tour: Hop on this famous train for a fun and engaging trip around town.

10. Papa Pillar Distillery Tour: Sample the rum inspired by Hemingway in Key West.

11. Key West Sunset Cruise by Catamaran: For an evening you will never forget, grab a glass of champagne and watch the sunset over the Gulf. Book this experience for a closer look at Key West on the water.

12. Guided Bicycle Tour: Explore the Florida Keys with a local to discover the best-hidden hotspots. Pre-arrange your bike experience here!

13. Key West Reef Snorkeling Excursions: What is better than a day trip out to explore the sparkling ocean? This tour leaving from Miami is a perfect pick when you want to get out of the city for a day but don’t have much time.

14. Key West Old Town Trolley Hop-On Hop-Off Tour: I always adore a hop-on hop-off tour. I find it such a perfect way to learn about a new place (or dive deeper into a place that I already know). This one is no exception. Book here, explore, and then jump off anywhere that catches your eye.

Must-See Historical Sites in the Florida Keys

Want to soak in a bit of history? Here are a few places that you will want to visit.

Key West Lighthouse - Florida

15. Key West Lighthouse: Wear your walking shoes and climb the 88 steps to the top for a panoramic view.

16. Harry Truman’s Little White House: Florida’s only presidential museum is well worth a look. Buy your Little White House museum tickets online here.

17. Key West Cemetery: At the center of Old Town, you can wander through time as you explore the final resting places of local icons in this 19-acre cemetery.

18. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg Shipwreck: Part of an incredible artificial reef, this is a fave dive spot in the Keys.

19. African Cemetery at Higgs Beach: Plan a brief stop at the only African refugee cemetery in the US. and discover the burial site of 250 Africans by the beach. Check out this self-guided Black History Tour of Key West, to learn more.

20. Oldest House Museum: Constructed in 1829, this is officially the oldest house in South Florida. It will transport you back in time as you explore the classic architecture and learn about the former residents.

21. Museum of Art and History at the Custom House: The same as it was way back in the 1890s, this museum is an interesting glimpse into the past. For a more in-depth look into the area and this museum, check out the Historic Homes and Island History tour.

The Best Museums and Galleries of the Florida Keys

It’s not all about beaches in the Florida Keys! Here are a few ways to dive deeply into the culture as you explore the Florida Keys.

Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum Florida

22. Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum: One of the first things you’ll notice in the Keys is that people are fascinated with shipwrecks here. To get your lay of the land (below the sea), buy your tickets, and explore 400 years of shipwrecks here.

23. Sails to Rails Museum: Take in 500 years of history as you explore the fascinating trade history in this key port. Don’t waste time in line; purchase your general admissions tickets here.

24. Coast Guard Museum: This exciting new project will shine a light on the vital work being done by the Coast Guard.

25. Hemingway Home: Hemingway’s house is an essential stop.

26. Tennessee Williams Museum: Love the theatre? Visit the lovely little home of one of the most influential American playwrights.

27. Mel Fisher Maritime Museum: Exploring the shipwrecks of years gone by is a perfect introduction to the past. Skip the line, and buy your museum admission ticket in advance here, with the bonus audio guide included.

Explore the Great Outdoors: Wildlife and Nature in the FL Keys

Key Deer Big Pine Key, Florida

28. National Key Deer Refuge, MM 30.3: This 8,542-acre is the natural habitat of the famous white-tailed Key deer. Grab a map before you go, then see if you can spot the world’s smallest deer.

29. Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center: You could spend all day learning about the native plants and animals of the Keys in this 6,000 sq ft space.

30. Florida National Marine Sanctuary: Dedicated to the remarkable marine environment, this beautiful space was created to preserve the local marine life. Book at least one of these activities to experience the marine sanctuary for a more in-depth look into this area.

31. Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden: The one and only frost-free natural conservation habitat in the continental US, this unique ecosystem is a must-visit for any nature lover.

32. Wild Bird Rehab Center, MM 93.6: Almost 1,000 birds are released from this center every year. A visit here will support their great cause and give you an exciting glimpse of their world.

33. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological Site, MM 84.9: A former quarry, this fossilized coral space is perfect for a short walking tour.

Audubon House & Tropical Gardens

34. Audubon House and Tropical Gardens: Explore the collection of John James Audubon’s images and wander the beautiful gardens. While you’re there, get a Birds of the Florida Keys illustration.

35. Florida Keys Heritage Trail: Visit the Florida State Park website before you go and plan your route through the 90 miles of hiking paths.

36. Dolphin Research Center, MM 59: This is the perfect spot to see dolphins and California sea lions in a wide-open space.

37. Alligator Reef Lighthouse, MM 78.5: This lighthouse is lovely both above and below sea level.

38. Key West Butterfly Conservancy: What is more captivating than wandering through a magical space of 60 species of butterflies?

39. Key West Aquarium: The only public aquarium in Key West, this is an essential spot for sea life lovers. Buy your Key West Aquarium tickets online here!

Where to Eat and Drink in the Keys

With all of that snorkeling, diving, and exploring, you are going to work up an appetite. Here are a few places to get the best local food in the Florida Keys.

DJs Clam Shack Lobster Roll, Key West, Florida

40. BO’s Fish Wagon: Home to one of Florida’s BEST fish sandwiches.

41. No Name Pub: An award-winning spot for lunch, dinner, and drinks. Be sure to try the conch fritters!

42. Blue Heaven: Fill up on homemade pancakes in this quirky Key West spot, then snap a selfie with one of the resident chickens.

43. First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery: This Key West restaurant was the birthplace of PanAm and is now much loved for its craft beer. Grab a seat in the garden canopy dining area, and check out the airplane wing that is still there from the day it came crashing through the roof!

44. Captain Tony’s: The former haunt of Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote, this Key West bar is truly legendary.

Events & Festivals in the Keys

To make the most of your trip to the Florida Keys, try to visit during one of the remarkable festivals. It’ll give you a deeper dive into the culture as you mingle with locals.

45. Key West Food & Wine Festival: Move over, key lime pie! This incredible food festival is all about gourmet dishes and wine.

46. Key West BrewFest: If you are a craft beer lover, plan your trip for late summer to sample the amazing brews at this beer festival.

47. Key West Fantasy Fest: Love getting dressed up and doing a bit of cosplay? Look no further.

48. New Year’s Eve in Key West: What better way to start the year?

49. Key Lime Festival: This is WAY more than just a dessert here.

50. Hemingway Days Festival: Every July, this festival brings together literally lovers from all over the globe. Best of all, it brings in the Hemingway Look-alike Society for an unmissable contest. Come hungry, then spend a day watching the cooking demos, live music, winter parking classes, and more. There is so much to do; you can easily squeeze in a couple of meals (Pro tip: wear an elastic waistband).

51. Key West LobsterFest: The ultra-fresh catch at this festival will bring your love of this crustacean to a new level.

52. Original Marathon Seafood Festival: March is the time to throw those New Year’s Resolutions out the window and indulged like never before.

53. Annual 7-Mile Bridge Run: After all those food fests, start your spring with a scenic run.

Arts & Culture in the Florida Keys

When it comes to unique things to do in the Florida Keys, it’s all about connecting with locals and exploring the laid-back cultural landscape. 

Betsy the Lobster, Rain Barrel Village, Islamorada, Florida

54. Rain Barrel Artisan Village, MM 86.7: The perfect spot to find a unique souvenir.

55. Morada Way District Monthly Art Walk: Every third Thursday, you’ll have the chance to soak in the local Keys culture.

56. Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, MM 82.1: No trip to the islands is complete without diving into the local history. This museum will take you on an engaging trip through time that will make you appreciate the region on a deeper level.

57. History of Diving Museum, MM 83: Love diving? You are going to adore this museum. They’ve got a cool “Immerse Yourself” presentation if you happen to be there on the third Wednesday of the month. 

Best Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys

Let’s be honest, one reason why the Florida Keys is a bucket list destination is because of its famous dessert. You can’t leave without trying at least a slice (or, better yet, one slice per day!). Here are a few of the best places and restaurants in the Florida Keys for that famous Key lime pie.

Burdines Waterfront Fried Key Lime Pie

58. Burdines Waterfront, MM 48: Come hungry, grab the fried key lime pie, then linger for drinks at the legendary tiki bar.

59. Blond Giraffe Key Lime Factory, MM 92.2: grab a slice (or entire pie), then head to the lovely garden out back, complete with love locks commemorating your visit.

60. Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe

Watersports in the Florida Keys

One of the best things about exploring the Florida Keys is getting in the water. I’ve always found some of the best sights are below sea level. Grab your swim gear and head to a few of these incredible spots.


61. Kayak from Key Largo to Key West: As much as I love a road-tripping the Florida Keys, the very best way to get around is by sea. I’d highly recommend a kayaking camping trip or, if you want just an afternoon trip, check out this full list of options.    

62. Dive Spiegel Grove Shipwreck: A must for any diver, head over here to explore the 510-foot retired Navy ship under the sea.

63. African Queen Canal Cruise, MM 99.7: Every day for more than 100 years, this iconic boat has traveled down the Port Largo Canals. Explore the gorgeous waterways in style for an unforgettable day out.

64. Key Largo Undersea Park: Bring your camera and get ready to meet the locals. You can snorkel or dive here to get a glimpse of the incredibly diverse array of fish, coral, and other marine life.

65. Fishing and snorkeling in The Florida Keys go hand-in-hand, so, why not schedule a snorkeling adventure?

66. Parasailing: There are many gorgeous places to parasail in the Florida Keys. You honestly can’t get it wrong. Book your adventure and prepare for one of the most stunning azure seas you’ve ever seen.

The Must-See Underwater Hotel

There is only one hotel I’m going to recommend to you. As soon as you arrive, you will know why.

67. Don’t want to get out of the water? Luckily, the planet’s only underwater hotel, Jules Undersea Lodge, is located at the Key Largo Undersea Park.

Florida Keys State Parks

Some of the most beautiful places in the Florida Keys are state parks. Here are a couple of spots that deserve at least one day of your time.

Florida Keys Beach

68. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, MM 106: Explore this gorgeous space and get to know the 84 protected species of animals and plants that call it home.

69. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, MM 102.5: Snorkel, kayak, canoe, or hop on a glass-bottom boat to explore the 70 nautical square miles of incredible coral reefs and sparkling shores.

70. Long Key State Park, MM 67.5: Just an hour from mainland Florida, you will find this magical wonderland full of natural wonders. Walk, swim, or hike your way through as you admire the local birds, mangroves, and stunning natural beauty.

71. Lignumvitae Key State Park, MM 78.5: Covered in a lush hardwood hammock, this tropical paradise is one of the most beautiful spots in the keys. You can enjoy just wandering around, but I recommend checking out one of their ranger-guide tours that run from December to April. It’s the perfect way to learn about the native land. Accessible by boat only.

72. Curry Hammock State Park, MM 56.2: This 1,000-acre wonderland between Big Pine Key and Key Largo is a dream destination when you want to get away from it all. Far from the hustle and bustle of Miami, you will feel like you are lost in a tropical aisle here.

73. Bahia Honda Key State Park, MM 36.8: This award-winning park covers over 500 acres and offers some of the best snorkeling in Florida.

Best Florida Keys Beaches

Of course, it’s all about the beaches in Florida, and the Keys are especially great for water sports. These are the best of the best.

Sombrero Beach Marathon, Florida

74. Sombrero Beach, MM 50: A lovely beach and a gorgeous hike up to the biggest lighthouse in the Florida Keys.

75. Anne’s Beach, MM 73.4: This dog-friendly beach, complete with a boardwalk, is the hidden jewel of Islamorada.

76. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and Beach: One of the best Key West beaches for snorkeling and diving.

77. Smathers Beach: Another postcard-perfect Key West beach, especially for sunbathing.

78. Higgs Beach: Rounding up my top three best Key West beaches, Higgs Beach is another must for water sports and activities.

79. Dry Tortugas National Park: This former 19th-century fort is home to some of the best snorkeling you will find anywhere. Embark on this full-day experience off the coast of Key West. Book your Dry Tortugas National Park adventure online here.

Nightlife in Key West and Beyond

For me, the perfect night out is watching the sunset in the Florida Keys and then hitting the town. Luckily, there is no shortage of places to go for a drink in Key West.

Key West for a Day 11 Hot Spots You Do Not Want to Miss - The Rum Bar

80. The Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn: Come for the rum, stay for the welcoming local vibe

81. The Bull & Whistle: The last good old fashion open-air on Duval Street in Key West.

82. Florida Keys Brewery Company, MM 81.6: In the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District, you will find the Upper Keys’ very first microbrewery.

83. Hog’s Breath Saloon: Grab a drink and soak in the sun on the outdoor patio, then stick around for live music and dancing.

84. Green Parrot: Get to know the real Keys culture at this very local bar.

Sloppy Joes Bar Rum Runner, Key West Florida

85. Sloppy Joe’s: An old Key West favorite

86. Islamorada Beer Company, MM 82.2: Craft beer lovers, this is your home away from home in Islamorada.

87. Schooner Wharf: Famous for its Old Key West vibe, this place will transport you back in time

88. Sunset Pier: Famous for its gorgeous views, arrive at this famous Key West bar for dinner, then stick around for drinks and live music

89. Duval Street: Can’t decide on a bar? In Key West, it’s all about Duval Street. From dinner to drinks and beyond, you can do it all here. Show up with no plans, then see where the night takes you.

Want more options? Check out the Ultimate Key West Bar Guide.

Family-Friendly Things to Do in the Florida Keys with Kids

Traveling with little ones? Let’s start with a few essential steps that everyone from 8 to 80 will love!

Theater of the Sea, Islamorada, Florida

90. Theatre of the Sea, MM 84.2: You can’t go to the Florida Keys without swimming with the dolphins! Dive in, make new friends, and then head over to watch the parrot and sea lion shows. I’d highly recommend getting out for a bottomless boat ride.

91. Historic Key West Seaport: With endless shopping, restaurants, watersports, and events, this is the perfect area for families who love being spoilt for choice. There’s always something new going on, so check the calendar … or arrive hungry and find the perfect spot to eat.

92. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, MM 53.5: Year after year, this place is voted the best place to bring kids. Let the little one’s touch, feed, and swim with the most incredible creatures of the sea.

93. Turtle Hospital, MM 48.5: Have little ones who love animals? Bring them to explore and learn as they help sick and hurt sea turtles in this hospital.

94. Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina, MM 77.9: Got kids who love animals? They are never going to forget this experience in Islamorada.

Free Things to Do in the Florida Keys

Blue Hole Big Pine Key

95. Mallory Square Sunset Celebrations: Every night is a party in Key West. With comedy shows, performances, live music, and vendors, come ready for an incredible sunset.

96. The Blue Hole, MM 30.2: While the ocean tends to get all the fanfare, this freshwater lake is worth visiting. 

97. Key West First Legal Rum Distillery Tour: Still going strong, this is a must for rum lovers.

98. Wyland’s Whaling Wall: Snap a shot of one of these beautiful art installations created worldwide to promote ocean conservation.

99. White Street Pier: For a perfect place for a stroll, wander down the unfinished road to Cuba.

100. Duval Bus Loop: This free hop-on, hop-off bus will take you through 18 stops to see the best of Key West.

101. Mile Marker 0: Another essential photo op, at the end of the road!

So, fellow traveler, which one of these 101 essential stops in the Florida Keys are you most looking forward to? Are you all about beaches and bars, or are you going to dive into the local culture? Tell us in the comments below!


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